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October 29, 2018 - 6:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in terry hills, restaurants, news, notify, batavia.

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Let's talk about French fries.

The lowly fry. Can you really kick it up a notch?

Cooking a gourmet fry is actually no secret. Any competent chef can do it. But it's a lot of work.

The new chef at Terry Hills, John Steward, is ready to do the work.

It's a four-day process that consists of blanching, drying, blanching again, more drying, freezing and then frying.

The result is a fry that has a veneer of crunch and a soft, fluffy center, like a perfectly cooked baked potato or a mouthful of savory clouds.

We told Steward we were going to write about his fries and that some people might find that odd. He agreed.

"People will be like 'oh, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about, talking about good French fries,' " Steward said. "A fry is a fry, you know. But at the same time, people feel like, 'oh, why is this fry so good? What's so different?' And that's what we need right now. We need people talking about Terry Hills. So many times I hear that people forget that Terry Hills is a restaurant."

A native of Rochester, Steward, is a new father, current resident of Le Roy and the former sous chef at Farmer's Creekside Tavern & Inn.

Terry Hills isn't his first head chef's job, but it may be his most important. It's a chance, he said, not only to take Terry Hills to the next level but also to better establish his name and provide his staff with the training necessary to help advance their careers. Those are his goals.

They're ambitious for a guy who a little over six years ago started in the restaurant business as a dishwasher and quickly moved through his first kitchen, entirely self taught, to be ready to run a kitchen himself a few years later -- La Luna, in Rochester.

"Yeah, I never went to a culinary college or school," Steward said. "Everything I've learned, I've learned on the job. I've done a lot of research on my own, watched a lot of shows, read a lot. When I first started, I would go to the public market and buy a bag full of potatoes and  sit in my apartment working on knife cuts."

Danielle Rotondo, VP, and co-owner of Terry Hills, said Steward was just what management was looking for -- young and ambitious and eager to take the dining experience for lunch, dinners, and banquets to the next level. He came out on top after three rounds of interviews and several reference checks.

"We want to grow; we want to do more; we want to show Batavia that we're not just a golf course," Rotondo said. "You know we have our golf course, our restaurant, our banquet facility, we have all of that here, and, yes, we want to show that there are some different things out here and there are different ways to do it. Yes, it's Batavia, but we can also go on the edge a little bit and try something else."

To show off how Terry Hills will take it to the next level, a couple of weeks ago the restaurant hosted a chef's menu night for a few dozens guests both to introduce some new dishes and as a kind of soft opening on how things are changing.

It was at that chef's menu night that we tried those crisp, fluffy fries. But Steward also introduced diners to his gnocchi carbonara, like everything that night, made from scratch, consisting of hand-rolled, house-made ricotta in a rich and thick carbonara sauce with diced ham and peas.

Steward also served a dry-aged strip steak, a pan-seared salmon, chicken roulade, to go along with a wedge salad, a Caesar salad, and a grain medley.

Many of these dishes -- particularly, say, the fries and the gnocchi -- take substantial prep time but Steward said there's no reason he and his line staff aren't up to the demands of the extra effort.

"As you're organized, you always have lists going; then it should be executable," Steward said. "There's no reason why it shouldn't be executable."

Steward said what makes a good dining experience is fresh ingredients, scratch cooking, and service. It's his job to oversee all aspects of a guest's experience at Terry Hills now, and he plans to pay attention to those details.

"Even if I go to a diner, or if I go to a finer place, you can see if the food is taken care of, if people care about quality," Steward said. "I think that is what makes a good meal -- making sure you use fresh ingredients, you use the proper techniques, execute the proper techniques. Your execution is what makes a good meal."

He said he expects the care of the kitchen staff to be carried out into the dining room by the servers.

"Nothing frustrates me more when I go to a place, and I ask a server a question about the menu, and the server is like, 'I don't know,' Steward said. "You should, you should. To me, I feel like it's your job to know the menu to know what the chef is trying to cook.

"There's going to be time and money invested to ensure our staff is trained properly."

The one thing Steward didn't change for the night was Terry Hill's famous seafood bisque.

"The only thing I might change is the garnish and change the saltines to oyster crackers," Steward said. "I think a seafood bisque should have oyster crackers."

While upgrading the sit-down lunch and dinner menus for Terry Hills is high on the agenda, Steward said he also plans to revamp the banquet service.

"I'm not knocking the former chefs here, but some of these recipes are outdated," Steward said, "by like 25 years."

That doesn't necessarily mean there will be big changes in menu choices. He already considers Terry Hills the premier banquet facility in Batavia. He thinks a few changes to how things are done will make it even better.

"I understand that like I can completely get everything off the menu," Steward said. "But, again, some of the techniques we're using here again are outdated. No one uses them anymore so. Therefore, we need to update our techniques to make a better product. The quality of the product will improve but still essentially be the same, they will have the same ingredients, but it's just going to be a better product overall because it's done better."

Steward said the chef's that inspire him include: Massimo Bottura, owner of Osteria Francescana in Italy, now ranked the #1 restaurant in the world (Bottura was the subject of the first episode of Chef's Table on Netflix); Thomas Keller, a chef and restauranteur in California; and, Wylie Dufresne, a chef in Manhattan.

"I pride myself working hard, putting in the hours," Steward said. "I think anyone who does that is going to do well in any field."

Steward thinks he can take what he's learned on his own and use that knowledge to help make his line cooks better. He would like to be known as a chef who helps his staff advance their careers.

"I really want to make really good food," Steward said. "In that process, I want to teach the guys that are here, too. As I said from day one, my goal is for you guys, whenever your time is up here, is to walk into any kitchen (and) be the best cook that walks in that kitchen because you've got trained by me."

October 28, 2018 - 4:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Los Compadres, restaurants, batavia, news, business.

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You know you're in an authentic taqueria when you spot a sign next to the salsa roja warning the gringos, "Danger!"

Not every dish in a Mexican restaurant is spicy, of course, but if the discerning diner doesn't have the option to bite into something that bites back, then it's just not the real deal.

A bottle of Frank's Hot Sauce on the counter doesn't cut it.

"I think we are very very authentic," said Jose Castañeda, owner of the brand new Los Compadres at 40 Oak St., Batavia. "We serve tacos and pretty much that's what we do. We will be getting a liquor license, of course, in the near future.

(The U.S. colloquial translation of Los Compadres is "The Buddies.")

"We do try to be as authentic as we can. We have very good people, very good cooks and they take a lot of pride in what they do. I think that helps us to be successful."

During the first week of business, local residents have had no trouble finding Los Compadres, keeping the lunch and dinner hours busy, often with repeat customers, Castañeda said.

"Many people that we've served since we opened had come back three days in a row," Castañeda said.

The success isn't unexpected for Castañeda. This is the 10th Upstate Mexican restaurant the Batavia-resident has opened, including another Los Compadres in Evans Mills, near Ft. Drum, with the same menu, that has done very well.

"I would say that 90 percent of our customer base is military (at Los Compadres in Evans Mills)," Castañeda said. "They are very happy with the food there. We are a five-star restaurant there and we have a thousand reviews. Being that I'm a resident in Batavia and I wanted to do it here, too."

For those of us with experience eating at authentic taquerias, there are other good signs when you walk into Los Compadres, starting with the straightforward menu above the front counter, the Mexican pottery and artwork displayed in the dining area, a salsa bar so you can garnish your own tacos, and the drink dispenser serving Mexican favorites, the refreshing agua frescas -- horchata, tamarindo and jamaica.

On the menu, tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and tamales, with meat choices including pollo (chicken), carne asada (the main ingredient in an authentic Tijuana street taco), molida (ground beef), barbacoa (brisket), al pastor (pork with pineapple), chorizo (Mexican pork sausage), cesina (dry salted steak), lengua (tongue), camarones (shrimp), tripa (gut), taco baja (fried fish), taco compadres (fried shrimp).

One of the best things about Mexican food is it is inexpensive. Tacos range in price from $2.50 to $4.

Rice and refried beans on the side are only $1 each.

The tacos are served with corn tortillas, which is as it should be; though, if you want to go gringo with your tacos, you can order flour tortillas.

Castañeda staff takes the time with new customers who may have little experience with Mexican food to explain the difference between tacos, torts, quesadillas and tamales.

The secret to a restaurant's success, Castañeda said, isn't just the food, it's the customer service. Restaurants that fail often miss the mark with customer service, so he said he makes sure his staff provides great service.

Castañeda was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, which is in the north central area of the country, south of Monterrey, north of Guadalajara. His parents immigrated when he was a young child and their first jobs were picking cotton in Texas.

While he was still a child, they moved to Western New York for farm work. Near the end of his 10th-grade year, Castañeda dropped out of high school and took a job on a farm in Brockport.

When he was 16, he went to work for Craig Yunker at CY Farms.

"I've worked ever since," Castañeda said. "I worked for the farms and any farm work I did, I did with pride in everything I did. It didn't matter what I was doing, whether I was sweeping the floor or if I was operating a tractor, I put pride in my work. That's that was how I was raised."

Castañeda started in the cabbage fields at CY Farms, he said. It wasn't long before the Yunkers took notice of his worth ethic. He was made a tractor operator and then moved to pesticide management for Batavia Turf. By 2006, after learning every job of the operation, he became manager of Batavia Turf, a position he held until 2016 when he quit to give his full attention to his burgeoning restaurant empire.

Castañeda started in the food business after visiting a cabbage operation for CY Farms in Florida and spotting a food trailer serving migrant workers on the farm there.

"I was down there and I saw people coming to the farms and bringing the food to the migrant workers so I thought it's a great idea," Castañeda said. "At that time here in Genesee County there was none of that going on, so I went to Indiana and bought a trailer."

His wife, Karina, pretty much ran that business until six years ago when she became pregnant with their now 5-year-old son.

In 2014, he opened his first restaurant in Lockport.

He was working at this point more than 100 hours a week, starting at Batavia Turf at 4 a.m. and working until the early evening and then doing the books and paperwork for his restaurants at night.

"It was busy working on the farm and trying to manage the restaurant," Castañeda said. "I felt there was a good business. It was a lot of work but it was a good business."

Leaving CY Farms wasn't an easy decision, though Castañeda said it proved to be the right decision.

"My wife was opposed to it because I guess, we got so used to working on the farm and making a living," Castañeda said. "I was pretty much my own boss."

Castañeda and Karina have three children, Brenda, 24, Jocelyn, 17, and Jose Sebastian, 5. The family bought a home in the City of Batavia 15 years ago.

"My parents were migrant workers," said Castañeda, whose mother has returned to Mexico and whose father died 12 years ago. "They started picking cotton in Texas. We grew up very poor. Even when I got married to my wife back in 1993, we were very, very poor.

"I worked many hours on the farm. Still, we were barely getting by. But I think through years of hard work and persistence, I always had a dream to give my kids what I wasn't given."

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October 22, 2018 - 5:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Fishtales Hideaway, batavia, restaurants, news, business.

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In "Kitchen Confidential," Anthony Bourdain famously advised diners, "never order fish on a Monday."

That works out well for Todd and Grace Sannin, who over the summer opened a new seafood restaurant in Batavia with a plan to make sure their fish is always fresh by buying it from the fish market in Buffalo on Wednesday and Thursday and serving it all by Saturday night.

"That's advice we live by because when we do have our liquor license and we are open seven days a week, we are going to have a tighter menu," Todd said. "Our menu is going to be a shorter menu the days we're closed now, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday."

With a little over two months in business under their belts, Todd and Grace like the way things are going and the response they've received from local diners so far.

"We wanted to bring something that Batavia had a need for," Todd said. "There was a customer base here that nobody tapped into. There are the burger joints and the pizzerias and the Smoke House and the Italian restaurants. We thought Batavia had a need for something of this nature that would appeal to a certain audience and we found that audience."

This is the fourth restaurant the couple has opened over the past 30 years. The previous ones were on the shores of Lake Ontario and while they also specialized in seafood, they were seasonal. Fishtales is their first attempt to run a seafood restaurant year around.

The location is 107 Evans St., Batavia, the same location as The Little Ridge and Delavan's previously.

Even without a liquor license yet and little marketing, people are finding the restaurant and the crowds are growing.

"We've had a couple of really great Friday and Saturday nights recently," Grace said. "The best we’ve had. I would say the business is building right now and that was our goal."

In recent weeks, flounder and snapper have been popular, along with tuna, cod, trout, and scallops (there's also steak and chicken on the menu).

"Last Friday, it was not your typical Friday fish fry crowd," Todd said. "It was a younger crowd, a full house and they were going for more of the sauteed and the broiled dishes. Our crowd is changing and yet it's growing."

Some local restaurateurs have shied away from seafood because customers demand freshness and they feared Batavia might not support seafood sufficiently to manage the product properly, but Todd said it's all about listening to your customers and paying attention to what they want. He felt confident he could make it work in Batavia.

"We don’t cut corners here; we try to put a good product out and I think people are starting to notice that," Todd said. "At least that's the feedback we get."

April 20, 2018 - 2:01pm
posted by Genesee Chamber... in batavia, downtown, business, tourism, chamber of commerce, restaurants, Vegan.

This Earth Day, the very first 100-percent vegan restaurant in Genesee County is opening up to share a different kind of delicious food with locals and visitors alike. Yep, you read that right! One-hundred-percent vegan food will be served up at Eden Café & Bakeshop!

Located inside Eli Fish Brewing Company, at 109 Main St., Batavia, there is a glimpse of the garden, with generous plant-based meals, fresh juices, and even treats to satisfy your sweet tooth. Join Eden Café & Bakeshop for their grand opening THIS SUNDAY, April 22nd, starting at 12 p.m.

There will be lots going on including a Cutco knife giveaway, raffles, and branded tumblers will be available for purchase. Be one of the first to experience a new kind of cuisine after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. 

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What began as a thought of opening a zero-waste store, slowly turned into Eden Café & Bakeshop. Owner, Judy Hysek, is bringing some seriously tasty and animal-free food choices to all in and around Genesee County!

Hysek has been vegan for three years, which just so happens to be enough time to experiment with plant-based foods and create some delicious concoctions to share with you!

“I’m hoping to open the community up to a new way of eating," she said. "I want to make it easier for people who don’t know how to eat without meat and dairy… I would have gone vegan a lot sooner if there was more support, education, and availability... I’m just trying to add to the awareness and make it more accessible."

Now, let’s get down to business. Let’s talk about the food!

Carrot Dogs: You may have heard of these soon-to-be-famous “dogs” already, especially if you follow Eden Café & Bakeshop’s Facebook Page.

Imagine a carrot, in the shape of a traditional hot dog, which has been infused with deliciousness and then topped with more deliciousness of your choice. You’ll have to try it for yourself the next time you're in Eli Fish.

Word on the street is that even omnivores can't tell the difference between a carrot dog and a traditional hot dog. We dare you to give it a try and test your taste buds to see if you can tell the difference. Try your first carrot dog on a roll or wrapped in a pretzel and baked until golden brown! 

Cauliflower Wings: Where have these been all our lives? Since Western New York is the home of Buffalo Wings, it only makes sense to have “wings” on the menu at Eden.

You can have your wings tossed in Buffalo sauce or topped with the sweet mustard sauce. You can’t go wrong with either sauce -- so good! The breaded and baked florets are served with carrots and celery sticks with a house-made dip. The cauliflower wings can also be made gluten free and they're just as tasty!

Loaded Nachos: What goes better with a cold brew from Eli Fish than a pile of nachos? What about a pile of nachos smothered in a vegan beer cheese? There is nothing more satisfying!

Speaking of cheese…

Eden will have a variety of house made vegan, artisan cheeses including almond feta and cashew mozzarella, which will come on the poutine. (Poutine is a dish originating from the Canadian province of Quebec consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy.) Where else can you get poutine in Batavia, let alone a vegan poutine?!

Other menu items include desserts like cashew cheesecake, cookies, brownies and more. Desserts will rotate to give everyone the opportunity to try something new and yummy!

Last but definitely not least -- fresh juices, smoothies, lemonades and kombucha! This week I was lucky enough to try a fresh juice made of apples, strawberries and raspberries. (Please make this a rotating juice, it was so good!)

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Did you know?

Veganism is on a climb throughout the world. In the United States, a recent report by Top Trends in Prepared Foods in 2017, says “6 percent of U.S. consumers now claim to be vegan, up from just 1 percent in 2014.”

Eden is here to satisfy some taste buds and open some minds to the benefits of eating healthy, saving animals, and the planet. Everyone should rejoice and get involved in the efforts to sustain our planet and you can start right at home, or at Eden.

Oh, and by the way -- Eden is donating all gratuities to a nonprofit right here in Genesee County. Mockingbird Farm Sanctuary in Byron provides a home and lifetime care to animals regardless of their condition or past. Their goal is to improve the mental, physical and emotional well-being of the animals who live on the farm. Eden is already showing love to others trying to make a difference right here at home!

For more information on Eden Cafe and other hotspots in Genesee County, visit: https://visitgeneseeny.com/

April 2, 2018 - 1:20pm
posted by Genesee Chamber... in food, restaurants, business.

From the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce:

Whether you’re visiting for the first time or are a regular local – it’s hard to beat some of the delicious eats found in Genesee County. We’ve got everything from BBQ and burgers to sushi to classic diner foods – complete with craft beverages and creative culinary creations sure to make your stomach rumble.

On the days that you just don’t feel like cooking or the nights that you are looking to experience something new – we’ve got you covered. Start with one of these six local eateries for a fantastic meal with all of the enjoyment and none of the work.

  • Batavia's Original Pizza. This stop has been loved by Batavia for years! Located on Main Street, Batavia’s Original is locally owned and operated -- and always has been. Owner Kathy Ferrara learned the art of pizza making from legendary pizzaiolo Sam Pontillo – and those skills have served her well. She’s still cooking up some of the best pies around – homemade with the freshest dough and ingredients.

Must Try: Their traditional white pizza. With ooey-gooey, melty mozzarella and ricotta, fresh broccoli and spinach, this pizza is a Batavia favorite.

  • Bourbon & Burger Co. Bourbon & Burger Co. tells you all you need to know upfront -- they do burgers and they do them well. Their menu boasts nearly 30 kinds of mouth-watering burgers, including their signature Kentucky Bourbon Company Burger, and their bourbon menu has more than 80 different kinds. They also have a rotating burger of the month, daily specials and over 24 rotating craft beers on tap – whew!

Must Try: The burger of the month. With so many drool-inducing options, there’s no wrong choice here – and who better to trust than the chef himself? Whichever flavor their offering when you visit, it’s sure to be creative and delicious- a perfect combination.

  • Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant. This place has history – and a great menu. Nestled next to Indian Falls, Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant was built in 1946 as part of the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. Now, it strives to preserve that history, while also serving up delicious food and a fantastic view.  

Must Try: Buffalo Bread. It’s a creative twist on a classic favorite – chopped chicken fingers shaken in hot sauce, topped with melted mozzarella and blue cheese and smothered over soft, warm garlic bread. The perfect starter to a meal – or side to a cold brew!

  • Le Roy's No Finer Diner. Sometimes, you just need a classic diner meal. That’s what Le Roy’s No Finer Diner is all about – serving up cozy classics in a relaxing hometown atmosphere. There are so many options at this little eatery, it can be hard to know where to start!

Must Try: The Eggs Benny. The tasty hollandaise, runny eggs and succulent ham are sure to fill you up, served on a toasted English muffin with a side of home fries or hash brown. A classic diner meal done well, every time.

  • T.F. Brown's. For more than 20 years, T.F. Brown's has been a community staple -- so much so that we wrote a whole blog on just them! Brown's could be classified as a sports bar – they’ve got the TVs showing all kinds of games; the sports memorabilia lining the walls; and they were even named for Major League pitcher Mordecai Brown. But there’s something else there that makes this place unforgettable. Grab a bite or stop in and bowl a game (the restaurant is attached to the Mancuso Bowling Center!). We think you’ll see what we mean.

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Must Try: The Batavia’s Favorite. “The Best” Beef on Weck, six jumbo wings, and your choice of fries or macaroni salad. It’s all the local goodness packed onto one plate – and you just can’t argue with the locals.

  • Peking Buffet. All you can eat – and the perfect place to satisfy your craving for every type of Chinese food imaginable. At Peking Buffet, the food is fresh and the menu is plentiful – they’ve got soup, seafood, chow mein, moo shu, curry, egg foo young and everything in between.

Must Try: The sushi! You don’t expect a buffet to do sushi like this – but Peking sushi hits the spot: rainbow rolls, spider rolls, dragon rolls, asparagus rolls – raw, cooked, sashimi and more.

For more delicious eats in Genesee County, take a moment to explore the Dining section of the chamber's website and find your next favorite! Or visit www.visitgeneseeny.com for information about the area.

February 28, 2018 - 3:11pm
posted by Genesee Chamber... in Farmer's Creekside Tavern & Inn, Le Roy, news, tourism, restaurants, business.

In July 2017, we welcomed a new business to Genesee County – but its building has history dating back to the 1820s. On Main Street in Le Roy sits the beautiful Farmer’s Creekside Tavern & Inn.

Walk in the front doors and you’ll find yourself in a cozy downstairs tavern and restaurant. Journey upstairs, and you’ll be blown away by the stunning gathering spaces and overnight accommodations. And no matter where you step, you’ll be able to see the view of the Oatka Creek bed – stunning in both the summer and winter months.

With so much beauty and finery, you’d never know that Farmer’s Creekside has a rich and tragic history. The building was constructed in the 1820s and was one of Main Street, Le Roy’s first locations. Over the years, the building served as a hat factory, a bank office, and several private residences. But in 2004, a fire nearly claimed the building for good, destroying almost all of the structure and interior.

Restoring this building and opening Creekside has truly been a labor of love for owner Bill Farmer. He acquired the building in 2007 and is welcoming visitors to enjoy the space – 10 years later.

Now that the wait is over, it’s time to make your reservation. Executive Chef Sean Wolf offers a tavern menu with sandwiches, salads and snacks, and a more upscale dinner menu featuring modern expressions of classic tavern fare. You’re bound to find something to make your mouth water. And with a well-stocked bar featuring 18 beers on tap and a selection of regional and global wines, there are plenty of drink options to complement your meal.

Once you’ve filled your belly, check out the view – or check into one of three brand new suites. Each one is decorated differently and features a modern yet timeless design that perfectly blends into the building’s brick walls, black Marcellus shale, and original wood beams.

On occasion, Farmer’s Creekside will host special events that are open to the public. They also offer space for private events and gatherings with advance reservation.

Support Genesee County’s newest offering! Farmer’s is open for lunch and dinner, Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. The Bar is open for extended hours in the evenings, and overnights can be booked year-round.

Learn more about Farmer’s Creekside and their story at: http://www.farmerscreekside.com/. Or visit www.VisitGeneseeNY.com to learn more about Genesee County's unique attractions and local offerings.

September 7, 2017 - 1:06pm

Press release:

A new restaurant ownership training course is slated to begin in October featuring two monthly classes over the winter, or approximately 26 hours of training that concludes in February.

The program involves two juried tastings that each class participant is required to prepare. Registration opens online Friday, Sept. 8th at www.freshLabBatavia.com. Top contestants of the freshLAB Foodie Challenge may win free tuition to attend the freshLAB Boot Camp. 

A range of small business specialists and industry experts have been coordinated by the Batavia Development Corporation to prepare the aspiring restaurant owners for a business sector that is reported to have a multimillion dollar opportunity in Genesee County.

Genesseans are assumed to spend approximately $20,000,000 to eat, drink and be entertained some place other than Genesee County. The downtown strategy is to keep the dining dollars local by becoming a dining and entertainment destination that will capitalize on the market opportunity.

“We are hosting a Foodie Challenge Sept. 23rd to stir food creativity,” said Barb Shine, coordinator of the program and Batavia Development Corporation Board member. “Good flavors come first, we want creative cooks to consider opening his/her restaurant.

"To follow, we’ve assumed a bigger role to coordinate the Boot Camp. We’ve corralled the necessary resources and experts for talented and industrious operators to seriously consider the restaurant business.”

Research and local experience shows that a written business plan is not a sufficient judge of a candidate’s readiness to get started or grow. In fact, 59 percent of hospitality businesses fail within three years according to Restaurant Management Software POS Sector study. One reason for failure is noted as the lack of a strong concept setting the business apart from the competition.

The Boot Camp instruction has carved-out more than three hours to discuss the trends and market opportunities in food service, a highly competitive and shifting business.

“What’s your 'Because?” " asked Katie Frilllici, representative of JFS/Curtze food distributor. “You must have a compelling reason for people to select your eatery over another.” 

JFS/Curtze should know, they have been in the food business for 135 years. Frillici and her colleagues have been invited to participate as guest instructors for the Boot Camp where they, too, will share trade ideas to help develop a winning concept. JFS/Curtze is a full-line food service distributor now serving eight states.

Other select instruction will be led by Palmer Food Services, Chef Tracy Burgio of Batavia Career & Technical Education Center and Matt Gray, entrepreneur and owner of five restaurants. Legal, insurance and regulatory representatives in addition to agriculture business educators will be on hand.

Tentative Boot Camp program schedule:

  • October: Program Orientation and introduction of restaurant operations, concepts, etc.;
  • November: “Back of House” featuring inventory management, food safety in addition to a juried tasting prepared by Boot Camp participants;
  • December: Finance and accounting for the restaurant business, freshLAB support area;
  • January: Concept development and business pitch, topped with final juried tasting;
  • February: Independent study, final business plan due;
  • March: two candidates will each open a restaurant at freshLAB restaurant incubator turn-key space, pre-approved for a $30,000 special rate loan

Industry experts will lead the classroom training in operations, marketing and financial management. Other mentors will guide menu planning to inventory management, distributor purchasing to farm sourcing. Estimated Course Value more than $1,300 being offered for $349.

The Boot Camp is considered a prerequisite for entrepreneurs considering to lease space at the new freshLAB restaurant incubator foodhall now under construction on Main Street, Batavia. The Foodie Challenge will reward the top five competitors by offering TUITION FREE invitation to the Boot Camp.

freshLAB restaurant incubator was conceived to strengthen the local food service industry and capitalize on more than $20,000,000 that leave Genesee County each year when residents eat, drink and enjoy entertainment elsewhere.

The project is funded, in part, by USDA Rural Development to intentionally link regional agriculture to the menu. A program coordinated by the Batavia Development Corporation in cooperation with the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Batavia Business Improvement District and Batavia Career & Technical Education Center. https://freshlabbatavia.com/

August 3, 2017 - 10:25am
posted by Maria Pericozzi in corfu, Three T's Family Diner, news, restaurants, business.

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A few members of the Toy family, from left to right, Coby, Tracy, Wade and Tyler.

Wade and Tracy Toy have five kids and know the struggle of getting a good meal for a large family, without breaking the wallets.

That’s why they opened Three T’s Family Diner, located at 2 Corfu Plaza in Corfu. While they live in Cheektowaga, the travel time is worth it, Tracy said.

“It seemed like the small town didn’t have much going for it,” Tracy said. “We figured if we do this, maybe other things would pick up and the town would be back to where it was years ago.”

Wade and Tracy found the Corfu location on Craigslist and thought the place had potential.

They started renovating the location in January and finished in May. Wade said they stripped everything right down to the firewalls.

Wade used to drive a truck and Tracy was a railroad clerk, up until the beginning of this year.

“We both quit our jobs to put our time and effort into the diner,” Tracy said.

Tracy said they plan to leave the diner to their kids, Jessica, 23, Joshua, 21, Jacob, 19, Tyler, 15, and Coby 13.

“We also have a 4-year-old grandson that comes here,” Tracy said. “He gives out the menus and straws.”

The hope is that further down the road, Wade and Tracy will pass the diner along to their kids, while they go mobile and purchase a food truck for events and parties.

For locals, if they have ideas for what should be on the menu, Tracy and Wade are open to suggestions.

“We’ll try it out,” Tracy said. “Even if we don’t know what it is, we will look it up and figure it out.”

Wade said one customer requested chipped beef and gravy last week, which has been added to the specials. Tracy said they hope to receive a lot of feedback from customers.

The diner is open every day of the week, except Wednesday, from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., and accepts cash only.

They just started with takeout and delivery only to local businesses.

Tracy said they hope to expand to dinner hours in the near future.

“People can come here with their families and have a good, decent meal,” Tracy said. “Then, they can leave with money in their wallet and still be able to take their kids out.” 

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The diner is located behind the carwash in the Corfu Plaza, next to the American Family Market.

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May 10, 2017 - 4:12pm

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A group of writers and photographers, mostly food and wine critics from Monroe County, were in Le Roy last night to be the first to experience Farmer's Creekside Inn.

Ten years have passed since Bill Farmer, chairman of Catenary Construction in Rochester and a specialist in historical preservation of concrete and masonry buildings, saw the Creekside Inn for the first time.

It wasn't a pretty sight. Three years earlier the Creekside had been destroyed by a fire people in Le Roy still talk about.

"Part of it is the environment," Farmer said about what attracted him to buying and restoring the 200-year-old building. "It was a vision when I first looked at the building, and it was in dire shape.

"It was collapsing. It was ravaged by fire. But I took a look at the environment, the setting, the historic structures that are across the creek, the composite of the village itself, the post office across the street, and I thought this was just an unbelievable setting that was unrecognized."

He decided to set out and create a dining and hospitality destination that was second to none in Western New York.

The preview dinner last night was the first time Farmer could see that vision start to come into focus in a meaningful way. There's still a lot of work to do on the interior of the building before Farmer's Creekside Tavern & Inn opens to the public on June 5, but Farmer said he has the right people in place to make it happen.

"It’s really overwhelming-- this event, this private little dinner we hosted tonight was a culmination of a fast track of putting the kitchen together, hanging the final fixtures," Farmer said. "The floors are only three days old. It’s really a tad overwhelming to see it come so beautifully, full of life, and so many people here enjoying the experience and seeing the staff perform. I just feel so flattered and honored to have the staff we have."

It's been eight years since The Batavian first paid a visit to the Creekside and met Farmer. We've dropped in several times over the years since and been impressed each time with the attention to detail; the quality Farmer is investing in the building. The new floors are real hardwood; the interior railings are oak, the fixtures are the highest quality and the amenities -- exterior patio and bar with a gas fireplace, a tavern, a fine dining room, guest rooms on the top floor -- are well thought out and designed.

As the opening day approaches, it's clear Farmer has given the same attention to detail in hiring his staff, with Chris Grocki as general manager and Sean Wolf as executive chef.

"I’ve always felt blessed by the people that I employ," Farmer said. "I've had people working for me now for well into a 30-year span. I value my employees. I recognize their efforts. It’s just so rewarding when you put together a good team, and they go out and execute the plan. That holds true with everything we do whether it’s real estate development or masonry and concrete services, masonry restoration services, and now it's going into our food and hospitality services."

Farmer said he decided on Grocki and Wolf as his top leadership in the restaurant several months ago and said throughout the process he's convinced he made the right choices.

During his opening remarks before the dinner, Grocki was equally effusive about his new boss.

"Opening a restaurant is a labor of love, and we’ve got a family here that has no shortage of it," Grocki said, adding, "I’ve never had the pleasure of working for somebody who has gone for it in quite this way. You always say, 'You don’t do anything like anybody else does.' and clearly that’s true."

One of the key people in helping the restaurant, tavern and inn come together so beautifully, Farmer said, was interior designer Jason Longo. Longo said Farmer was a special client.

"Chris and I had worked on a project before, and I called Chris one night," Longo said, "and I was nearly in tears, and I said, 'I can't believe that in my career' -- which has been going on for some time now -- 'that I've ever worked on a project where people gave everything, from the carpenters to the electricians. Every single person who has worked on this project is so invested and so involved.' "

Farmer said he just had a passion for the project since the day he saw the building and has made sure he's had the right people in place to make sure the vision became a reality.

"It seemed pretty clear to me when I came to the building, looked at the site, saw the surroundings, stone building, 200 years old almost, I hate to say it, but for me, it was a no-brainer to get involved in," Farmer said.

"You’ve got to have a passion for it," he added. "I think that’s the driving force. I fell in love with this place. I fell in love with the building. The site. Part of the experience of rehabbing and building it and meeting all the challenges and solving all the issues are a great part of it."

The dinner consisted of multiple courses loosely paired with wines, mostly from the Finger Lakes. It started with a ceviche of Alaskan halibut, bitter spring greens, truffle chicken, followed by a surf and turf and a dessert of foie gras. Wines included a Hermann J. Wiemer Blanc de Noir 2011, Ravines Dry Riesling Argetsinger Vineyard 2012, Palo Cortado 'Peninsula' Sherry' and a Benanti Etna Bianco 2015, among others.

The idea, Grocki said, was to give guests a sample of what will be served in the tavern and in the fine dining room, known as the Cleveland Room, which will serve fine dining, destination, and special occasion meals four days a week. The fine dining room, the tavern, the patios, all told, will seat 400 people.  

Farmer thinks the Creekside Inn will become a destination location, drawing people from throughout the region, especially Buffalo and Rochester.

"I had no idea initially how important of a project this would be, but over the years it’s become apparent," Farmer said. "I’ve realized this is a significant, significant project for Western New York, the Town of Le Roy, the county. It’s a very meaningful project, and I’m flattered and privileged to be that guy doing it."

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Truffle chicken

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Surf and turf

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The tavern, still under construction

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One of the inn's guest rooms.

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Bill Farmer, Sean Wolf, Chris Grocki

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Bill's son, Bill, daughter Hailey, who will run fine dining, her son Ryder, and Bill Farmer.

October 7, 2016 - 4:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news, restaurants, fab fajita & pita, business.

An array of fresh, healthy, tasty salads, wraps, fajitas, pitas and "fun food" like Jersey Shore "Disco fries" is offered at a new eatery on West Main Street in Batavia's Valu Plaza.

Fab Fajita & Pita is a place where you can "Wrap up some WOW!" The menu boasts a moveable feast that spans the globe: Mexico, Italy, Sicily, Greece, Asia with options to build your own or suit to your liking.

If you have a sweet tooth, you'll appreciate the flaky, honey-laden baklava, moist cookies and hefty brownies -- all made from scratch.

"What we offer is fresh, high quality, afforable food," said owner Victor Canastraro, who lives in East Amherst and would like his first foray into the restaurant business to be successful enough to grow into several locations.

Crafting the menu and trying out different combinations and flavor profiles took time. The result is a range of uncommon fare prepared in a spotlessly clean kitchen for diners in a spotlessly clean, spacious eating area.

Some menu items that "just hit" and just right, too:

One appetizer is the Red Eye Fries ($4.25) -- fries topped with two eggs sunny side up and a spicy Sriracha sauce that "will make your eyes pop!" The Asian Salad ($5.95) is made up of a fresh spring lettuce mix with mandarin oranges, Roma tomatoes, fresh strawberries, sliced almonds, served with sesame ginger vinagrette, topped with crispy Asian noodles.

"The Greek" ($5.95) is a traditional pita filled with gyro meat -- a mixture of beef and lamb perfectly seasoned, with lettuce, tomato and feta cheese, topped with a snappy Tzatziki sauce. "The Sicilian" ($6.50) features succulent calamari, wrapped with lettuce, tomato, lemon juice and topped with a special homemade sauce.

At Thanksgiving time, they plan to offer a wrap and/or pita that will include turkey, stuffing and gravy.

"We experimented," Canastraro said. "We wanted something that explodes in your mouth. I enjoy making flavor. I pride myself on being creative."

He has some experience in the flavor department. For the better part of the last decade, he has grown a successful chain of electronic cigarette shops, and flavor is mighty important to e-cig consumers. He has two stores in Rochester, one in Irondequoit, one in Gates, one in Depew, and two in Florida.

The 43-year-old also knows the food business can be "a nightmare" -- his dad was in the restaurant business. But he's up to the challenge of building something from the ground up after an official with Valu Plaza convinced him that a specialty restaurant would be a good fit for the location.

Getting it ready to open was "a hell of an awakening."

He spent $80,000 on new equipment that included refrigerators and freezers, new paint, new tables and chairs. He took some solace in at least not having to buy a new heat and fire-suppression system. That was, until an inspector came out and found two holes on the sides of the existing system (used at this former restaurant site) and said it, too, would have to be replaced.

Done.

A week ago Monday, some friends and family and a few others stopped by for a training day, which ended up being quite busy and prompted some additional equipment purchases. Fab Fajita & Pita officially opened Sept. 30.

His credits his father, the son of Sicilian immigrants, with teaching him the value of hard work.

"My father was the kind of guy who always had a full-time job, plus a part-time job," Canastraro said. "He always told me 'If you want anything in this world you have to work for it.' "

One lesson was learned when the younger Canastraro became a new father at age 20 and money was tight. His utility bill came due and he needed money to pay it. He asked his dad for help. His dad said "Are you hungry? Come over and I'll feed you a bologna sandwich. You need a loan? Go to the bank."

"It was the best thing he could have taught me," Canastraro says in hindsight.

Eventually, the grandson of Sicilians got into the mortgage and finance business and succeeded. He's lived in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Fla., and in Colorado.

In sensing the economic climate and the state of the real estate business in 2007, he convinced his wife, Dawn, to sell their assets in 2007 and move back to Buffalo in 2008. It was a fortuitious move.

"I like Buffalo," says its native son. "People drive a Chevy Impala if what they can afford is a Chevy Impala, not a BMW."

Dawn is the baker in the family. He credits her with the ability to make "50-pound brownies" that will have you "grinning from ear to ear."

"It's all about love," Canastraro said, noting he is "blessed with an unrivaled faith in God." "Take care of people. If you do that -- the guy upstairs -- whatever you want to call it -- takes care of us."

To that end, he said he hopes to grow with the community in Genesee County, which he believes is uniquely poised for growth, and be charitable, especially to first responders, the disabled and veterans.

Fab Fajita & Pita is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Closed Sunday. The address is 4125 W. Main Street Road. (www.fabfajita.com).

June 28, 2016 - 12:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, business, downtown, Carter's, news.

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Yes, dreams can come true, and so far, they have for Brenden Mullen, who eight years after going to work in his father's restaurant, formerly Larry's Steakhouse, is now the owner of Carter's in the same location.

But the dream doesn't stop there. Carter is the name of his 9-year-old son, and if dreams really do come true, it will be Carter someday welcoming you at the front door or serving you a drink.

"If I can, I'll get Carter's successful and then 10, 15 years down the road, I'm on my way down South and I'll leave this place for him to take over if he wants," Mullen said.

It's been seven months since Larry's closed so Mullen could revamp the restaurant and put his own mark on it. There was a lot of planning and work into getting the doors open again, he said, which happened today.

The theme of the new restaurant is nautical with a nod toward the Northeast seafaring tradition.

Naturally, the menu is filled with seafood appetizers and entrees.

"I spent the past seven months coming up with different menu ideas," Mullen said. "When I started narrowing it down, the result was predominately seafood, and then when I got to thinking about it, it seemed like a good idea, our niche, so to speak."

Mullen enjoys the restaurant business, he said, because he loves food and he loves people.

"When I was 21 years old, looking for something to do, I thought, there's no better way to make a living than working in a restaurant," Mullen said. "I love food and I love going out to dinner, and you can't be in this business if you're not a people person. To be able to hang out and mingle with my friends and customers, it really doesn't get much better, in my opinion."

February 6, 2015 - 12:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, business, food, John & Mary's.

He's Ted and she's Mary and together they're the new owners of John & Mary's in Batavia.

If that sounds a little confusing, it might help to know a bit of the history of the venerable Erie County group of entries. 

John Guida opened his first sandwich shop in Cheektowaga in 1952. Mary, his wife, insisted her name be added to the sign, so it was. (Mary Guida is 88 and reportedly still working.)

Ted Ulm was born and raised in Cheektowaga and went to culinary school, became a chef, worked in a supper club and a bakery and hooked up with an instructor who owned a Greek catering business when he was 18.

"Once I learned the ropes, he could run two jobs a day," Ulm said.

That led to a connection with John & Mary's and eventually, Ted Ulm owned his own John & Mary's location in Cheektowaga. 

He opened another location in Alden in 1999, which he still owns. He opened another in Arcade that he later sold, but he does own Theo's Greek Family Restaurant in Arcade.

He married Mary in 2009, and the coincidence of her name has led many people, Ted said, to assume his name is John.

The name may be different, but the quality is the same, Ulm said.

"Everything I make is all homemade, our dough, our sauces, our Souvlaki is out of this world," Ulm said. "I win awards with it all the time."

"It's a bigger menu, but it's all quality food," he added. "We use all of John & Mary's recipes. I stick by what they did in 1952. Their homemade hot sauce, top-line mayonnaise, top of the line cold cuts."

This John & Mary's is actually the second in Batavia. There was a John & Mary's here in 1974 and '75.

When Ted and Mary moved to Corfu, they started thinking it was time to bring John & Mary's back to Batavia.

From the time Ted opened his first John & Mary's in 1990, he expanded the menu so that there would be something for everybody. 

There's a full Greek menu and a full Mexican menu, Ulm said.

"John & Mary's is a place where a family can come and everybody will be happy," Ulm said.

John & Mary's is located at the old Scooter's location, 3711 W. Main Street Road, Batavia.

CORRECTION: The information about Mary Guida came from the John & Mary's web site, which is apparently very out of date. Mary Guida passed in 2007.

July 23, 2014 - 2:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, business, Pasquale's.

The New York Times writer Eliane Sciolino says, "the perfect bistro is a place where the dishes are traditional, the ingredients seasonal, the service attentive, the price acceptable and my relationship with the chef close enough that I can visit the kitchen when the meal is over."

Welcome to Pasquale's.

Mama Fasano promised us an intimate eatery filled with the treasures of family and the recipes of generations served in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

She's kept her promise.

The restaurant, at 341 Ellicott St., opened two months ago -- lunchtime only -- and is packed every afternoon.

It's the perfect kind of small lunch place for Batavia -- Italian classics such as ravioli, chicken cacciatore, tripe soup, pasta fazool, prepared and served by a longtime, local family, seated among your friends and neighbors (if you know anybody in Batavia at all, you'll run into people you know at Pasquale's).

The menu features a regular rotation of daily specials, plus a select few daily standards (for example, pasta and meatballs, of course, or beans and greens). Everything is fresh and homemade and as delicious as it looks. For your sweet tooth, try the cheesecake, which is thin and scrumptious, and comes with a dollop of real whipped cream on the side.

Batavia is blessed with a bounty of excellent, locally owned restaurants. Pasquale's is another great addition.

June 19, 2014 - 6:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, business, the Rack Shack.

How far would you drive for really good BBQ? Yesterday, somebody reportedly drove 70 miles to try out Batavia's newest BBQ joint -- The Rack Shack, on Ellicott Street Road.

Open just a week and with little fanfare, the owners of the new restaurant are finding their location just a bit outside the city is well suited to the business they want to build.

"The location presented itself and we thought it was a good opportunity," said co-owner Mandee Hopkins.

The location was most recently Rosie's Diner. Rosie's nor the prior diner, Fedora's, really worked out for those owners. But Hopkins said she and her partners like the location because of the high volume of traffic on Route 63, the fact that the east side of Batavia -- with the ag park -- is growing, and they are confident good BBQ will make the restaurant a destination for smoked pork and beef aficionados.

The co-owners are her husband Jason, who has 25 years experience in the restaurant business, including working as head chef at the Hillside Inn and sous chef at the Valley Inn, and Jim and Melissa Penders. Jim is an award-winning BBQer who has worked in catering for 15 years.

"BBQ is what they love," Mandee said. "It's what they love to eat. It's what they love to cook, and it's a skill that needs to be mastered."

Mastered it, they have. The menu boasts that the pork ribs are so tender they melt off the bone. They'll never be accused of false advertising on that point.

The menu is filled with Southern flavor, from cole slaw to collard greens to cajun catfish along with WNY favorites such as salt potatoes, Pittsburgh salad, and their own version of the garbage plate, called the Shack Attack.

"We want to offer a warm, comfortable atmosphere where people can enjoy their food," Mandee said. "We believe in high standards and treating people like family."

March 17, 2014 - 9:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, business, YUME Asian Bistro.

It was Kevin Xaio's cousin who suggested the young chef open a restaurant in Batavia.

Xaio, who lived and worked in New York City, tried to find out all he could about Batavia and the local restaurant market, Xaio said.

"It's six hours," Xaio said, "I drive here more than 10 times. I check out everything. Other businesses, Applebee's, dine-in restaurants, how are they doing, and how is traffic, how is the casino. I check all and the past history and see that the people here are nice and I think with the traffic here we're going to have a nice business."

A little more than a week ago, Xaio, and his partner, Chris Huang, opened Yume Asian Bistro at 4140 Veterans Memorial Drive.

An article in The Batavian helped alert local sushi aficionados to Xaio's and Huang's plans and the business is off to a good start.

"It's amazing," said Xaio with a broad smile.

He smiles often when talking about his new business. And he's most pleased that many customers have already been back three times within a week, trying something different on the menu with each visit.

There are a few facts to correct from that original article, which was based on a conversation at a public meeting that neither Xaio nor Huang attended.

Xaio doesn't own any restaurants in NYC. Neither he nor Huang are planning to return to NYC (Huang moved here from New Jersey, not NYC). They've both taken up residence in Batavia and both work at the restaurant full-time with no plans to leave.

Xaio grew up in a small town in Missouri, near St. Louis, which is part of the reason he liked Batavia as a possible location for his dream restaurant. 

"The location is good and the people are nice," Xaio said. "That is the most important. It is country-sized. I'm from country-sized."

Xaio's father has been a chef for 30 years and Xaio started working in the kitchen at 16 years old and has been a chef now for 10 years.

When he talked with a cousin, who lives in Batavia, about his ambition to open his own restaurant, his cousin told him Batavia had only three Chinese restaurants, no other Asian cuisine and no sushi.

"At first, I didn't think sushi would be good for people here, but I hang around and I ask people, do you like sushi and they say yeah, I do, but I need to drive 30 or 35 minutes to Rochester or Buffalo to get it," Xaio said. "Then I think, I need a sushi bar here, and alcohol, that's what I think."

Yume doesn't have its liquor license yet, but the blue-lit bar in back has three wide, empty shelves, and it's looking thirsty for clear glass and amber and green bottles of whiskey, scotch, gin, vodka and other spirits.

Huang is the sushi chef. He's been preparing sushi for 10 years. He became a popular sushi chef in New Jersey, Xaio said.

"When Chris started in a restaurant there, it is low business, right, but after Chris there, it is high," Xaio said. "The business is growing because of Chris."

Huang's English is not as good as Xaio's, so he answers questions in just a few words.

He said people should eat sushi because it's healthy.

"It's good for the body," he said.

Huang's sushi speaks for itself. 

There is an art to making sushi. It's about blending flavors, colors, shapes and dimensions on plates that are as pleasing to the eye as to the palate.

Batavia resident Michael Robbins is one of those customers who has already returned at least three times since the restaurant opened. 

Part of the appeal is that the menu contains rolls he's never tried before, such as the marble roll and the Godzilla roll.

He has primarily come back, though, because of the flavor and freshness of the fish. He's also impressed by the presentation, he said.

"It's really all about taste, but it's nice that they put such detail in it, because to me, if they're putting out a great presentation, it shows a lot of care," Robbins said. "It shows they care a lot about what they're doing. That's the thing that impresses me is they care a lot about what they're doing. That's what the presentation means to me. 'We worked hard on this for you.' "

Robbins and his wife have regularly driven to Buffalo for sushi and they were excited that Yume was opening across from Walmart.

"We kept checking and checking and it opened, and my wife and I said 'Ok it's open. Let's go.' And it was really enjoyable experience."

The sushi hits another sweet spot for Robbins. It's affordable and Huang serves up hearty rolls with plenty of fish. Robbins is saving the expense of a trip to Buffalo, he said, and he's not paying as much for the same quality.

"It's a big lump of fish mixed with a lot of good ingredients and there's plenty of it," Robbins said. "When you buy a roll you want to be filled up after you pay for the roll. A lot of times when you buy a roll somewhere else and it's not packed with sushi, it's not going to fill you up."

Jeff McIntire brought his family into the bistro for the first time Friday night and his three children seemed as to be excited to be there as he was. There was Derek 12, Kayla 11, and Randy, 8.

Soon after the children were seated at a table, they headed over to the sushi bar and clambered up on three chairs where they could watch Huang and his assistants work their magic on gorgeous creations of fish, rice and vegetables. 

Derek and Randy are more the California Roll-type sushi diners, but Kayla has already expanded her options, McIntire said.

Asked if she loved sushi, Kayla's eyes got big, she grinned and we learned that sometimes the word "yes" contains more than three letters. 

A former Marine, McIntire was deployed in Japan a few times, but never tried sushi in its country of origin. It wasn't until he was stationed in California that he ate sushi for the first time.

He started, as many neophytes do, with the California Roll.

Sushi was first introduced in the United States in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Chef Ichiro Mashita, at the Tokyo Kaikan restaurant, is credited with developing the California Roll by trying to incorporate avocado into a roll. A California Roll is comprised of cucumber, crab meat and avocado (though there are variations).

It's become a popular dish in the United States, though scorned in Japan.

But it's a place to start, McIntire acknowledged, especially for his children. You can work your way up to raw fish.

When you know sushi, you know what good sushi is, Robbins said. He compared it to the kind of hamburger you get at a place like Fudrucker's to what you might expect from a drive-thru joint. One is a meal made from fresh, quality ingredients, and the other is just thrown together for quick consumption.

An ironic comparison since sushi is kind of the original fast food.

Sushi as we know it today was invented, most likely, by Hanaya Yohei near the end of Japan's Edo period (roughly the 1860s). He created a meal that could be made quickly with inexpensive ingredients and eaten by hand (no chopsticks required) by people on the go.

When the government outlawed sushi street vendors, the cooks moved indoors into restaurants and became chefs and sushi evolved into an art form.

Though sushi has become popular in this country -- seemingly passing the trend stage many years ago and skirting the edge of mainstream -- Americans often eat sushi all wrong according to some.

To understand how to eat sushi, it helps to understand what it is and how it's made.

The key ingredient is vinegared rice. It is Japanese rice mixed with a dressing of rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Sometimes a wrapper is used. The wrapper is usually a kind of seaweed that has been dried, compressed and rolled paper thin. 

We generally think of sushi as raw fish, and while that might be the heart of the sushi experience, main ingredients can also be a variety of cooked meats -- octopus, squid and shellfish are always cooked -- or vegetables. 

When you get your plate of sushi, it will likely contain a dab of wasabi (a green paste similar in taste to horseradish). There will also be an empty dish where you might pour a little soy sauce.

You may also receive a dish of pickled sliced ginger, which acts as a palate cleanser between bites, the way a wine connoisseur might use crackers between tastings.

For a visitor to Yume Asian Bistro on Thursday, one of the sushi chefs, Jerry Zhao, explained the dishes and how to eat them.

Starting with a type of sushi called nigirizushi -- an oblong, hand-pressed serving of rice and a cut of raw fish placed on top -- Zhao said there are a few options on how to eat it. In Japan, it would probably be eaten as presented, with no soy sauce, no added wasabi (the chef has already placed some wasabi under the fish).

It's traditional to use your fingers to pick up nigirizushi, but chopsticks are acceptable.

Americans, typically, will place some soy sauce in a dish and mix in a dash of wasabi, Zhao explained. Some might put a dab or three of wasabi on top of the fish.

What's more important than how you use wasabi, or whether you grab the serving with your fingers or chopsticks, is what you do next.

What you don't want to do is try to cut the fish or let the rice touch the soy sauce (the rice will soak up too much soy sauce, destroying the flavor of both the rice and the fish, and cause the packed rice to fall apart).

Rather, you turn the nigirizushi-fish-side first into the soy sauce. Just a dab will do it.

You then put the whole piece into your mouth, fish side on your tongue.

For a roll, you would likely not dip it in your wasabi-soy-sauce mix.

For traditionalists, they eat sushi as served, and it's chef's choice, not the diner's. In Japanese, "trust the chef" translates into "omakase." In some sushi bars, diners have no other choice.

At Yume Asian Bistro, of course, the choices are much more expansive. There is a menu loaded with an array of sushi choices, such as chirashi, sashimi, spicy maki, eel dragon roll, thunder roll, Mexican roll and naruto maki. Sushi can also be ordered a la carte.

While Huang runs the sushi bar, Xaio is in charge in the kitchen, which provides both additional Asian flavors to experience, but also gives the person not ready to try sushi meal options while the rest of their party may be in the mood for some raw yellowfin tuna or striped bass. 

Xaio's kitchen is well equipped with all-new restaurant-quality ovens, burners and grills and he has plenty of helping hands to aid in fast and accurate meal preparation.

Yume's kitchen menu includes teriyaki, hibachi, and tempura dishes. Entrees include pad thai, curries, salt and pepper shrimp, duck, and pineapple chicken. 

Xaio admits to being a little unsure yet what Batavia's diners would prefer on the kitchen menu, so he will run regular specials to find out what people like.

"I know how to cook a lot of stuff, but I don't know if people like it or lot," he said.

He's also brimming with ideas.

"I have so many things on my mind to put on the menu, but I can't do it all at once, so I try maybe (to) switch menus, a summer menu, maybe," Xaio said.

Everything that is served out of the kitchen is prepared with the same eye toward presentation as the sushi. Great care is taken to ensure dishes are as artful as they are flavorful.

A customer favorite already is Xaio's pineapple fried rice, which is rice, shrimp, chicken and bits of pineapple served in half a pineapple husk.

Xaio and Huang put a great deal of thought into designing the interior of their restaurant, as well. A spare, contemporary theme of cut rocks along the walls sets the tone, with touches of Asian art. The predominant feature is water flowing through two panes of thick glass near the entry.

The chairs and booths are covered in leather and Xaio said he picked seating with extra padding to ensure customers are comfortable.

The lighting is kept low so those who want a romantic atmosphere will find it at Yume. The light across the room is actually gradiated. More light near the bar, where people can socialize, less light along the far wall; seating in the back is arranged for couples.

"I feel when people are eating, they need a comfortable place," Xaio said. "Music, good food and a comfortable place."

It took a lot of work to get his dream restaurant open, but now that he's serving food to happy customers, Xaio is glad to see the effort paying off.

"We try (the) best we can do," Xaio said. "Seven months. That is long story. I was just trying to do things perfect."

So far, it seems the customers like Batavia's new Asian bistro and Robbins thinks more local residents need to try Yume, and they should try sushi.

"Life is about trying different things," Robbins said. "You have to try different things, right?  Why have the same old thing all the time. Like traveling around the world and going to different places, and it should be the same thing when you eat. You should try different things to see if you like it. You might surprise yourself."

Chris Huang

Kevin Xaio

January 21, 2014 - 9:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, business.

Town planners approved a sign tonight for a new sushi restaurant that will reportedly open soon at 4140 Veterans Memorial Drive, Batavia.

The restaurant, YUME Asian Bistro, will be the third location for the owner, according to Dan Lang, the town's code enforcement officer. The other two are in New York City.

Everything about the new restaurant, Lang said, is first-class.

"The interior looks wonderful, actually," Lang said. "He did a beautiful job on the inside of it."

Lang said the owner is just about ready, and eager to open.

The location is next to Pawn King, two doors down from Jagged Edges Salon, across from Walmart.

His top chef from New York will open the restaurant and train the cooks and staff before returning to NYC.

"He wants to make sure he has somebody who takes care of the sushi the right way," Lang said.

The restaurant will also serve Thai food as well as other Asian dishes.

Lang described the new restaurant as "high end."

UPDATE: So, apparently, Batavia will have two sushi restaurants going by similar names. Josh Gaylord says that he filed for a DBA for Yume Sushi in June and then Yumi Asian Bistro filed in July. Gaylord is planning to open his restaurant at the former Delavan's location on Evans Street in the city.  He's previously held a Sushi night at Sweet Ecstasy Bakery and his sushi has gained a passionate local following.

November 22, 2013 - 6:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in restaurants, business, Sponsored Post, advertisement, Batavia Eats.

We have more menus online ready to receive your meal orders from great local restaurants.

Here are the menus available now:

The developers have also added a new feature -- you can order your meals in advance. Let's say you're in Rochester at 4 p.m. and know you won't be back in Batavia until 6:15 p.m., you can specify 6:15 as your pick-up time.

Be sure to bookmark BataviaEats.com to keep up with new restaurants as we add them and for future online ordering from local restaurants.

July 2, 2013 - 10:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, business, downtown.

Press release:

Why do you leave Genesee County to eat? That’s exactly what the Restaurant Creativity Advocates want to find out. In response to sales leakage reports provided by W-ZHA and The Community Land Use & Economics Group, a brief survey was developed for area residents to explain their dining and travel habits. The survey is available now through July 12th online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/N6SCRMV.

The Restaurant Creativity Advocates is a local group formed by representatives of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Genesee Community College’s The BEST Center, Batavia Development Corporation, downtown's Business Improvement District and Senior Corp of Retired Executives. This group voluntarily organized to research and improve the local dining options throughout the county.

“We gathered in response to two recent reports that suggest area residents spend more than $12.4 million annually to eat and drink at restaurants beyond our County borders,” stated Julie Pacatte, Batavia Development Corporation. “We want to understand why people leave the County to dine-out. Ultimately, we want to do what we can to try to ensure more dining dollars stay local.”

The Restaurant Creativity Advocates began discussion early February 2013. Since then, they conducted their own local restaurant assessment facilitated by Lina LaMattina, director of The BEST Center.

“We began by asking team members to finish the open-ended question, wouldn’t it be great if...,” LaMattina said. “Allowing this cross-functional team to begin to consider the possibilities open to the County helped the group to generate some big picture thinking, think creatively, and develop the foundation for some real conversation with stakeholders without giving way to the  traditional stumbling blocks typically encountered when dealing with significant challenges,” LaMattina added.

The group categorized more than 100 committee responses and found that six areas of focus could potentially improve the local restaurant scene. Upon completion of the customer survey, the group will share all results with the local restaurateurs in hopes of devising an action plan to reduce the sales leakage.

The restaurant customer survey is brief, but it does end with the same valuable question “Wouldn’t it be great if…?”

The Chamber of Commerce has mailed a separate restaurant owner survey directly to their listing of 126 existing restaurants in Genesee County. That survey will also be complete at the end of next week.

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